Gin & Beer: Review
When serious restaurants began opening in far-off parts of London – say Hoxton, or Bermondsey – in the noughties, the restaurant critics of the time (Meades, Maschler, Gill, etc.) would precede their reviews with an explanation of how hard it was to get to these outlandish places. It’s a very different world now, where foreign newspapers and magazines run profiles on Peckham. Today everyone wants to spot the next gastronomic hotspot.
Could it be Deptford? The area has long-housed artists and the New York Times ran an article recommending Deptford as a tourist destination way back in 2009, much to the locals’ bemusement. Now though, Deptford has places to go to after the art happenings. Right by the station, the Market Yard area of bars, shops and restaurants opened last year. Further down the high street there’s an Antic (a pub company that offers local beers and generally pretty good food combined with minimum renovation) venue in the old Job Centre called, naturally, the Job Centre. With its mixture of halal butchers, bars and a bike repair coffee shop, Deptford is beginning to feel more and more like Peckham every day. On the other side of the street from the Market Yard under a railway arch is a new addition to the scene: Gin & Beer.
The name is apt, because they only sell gin and beer. Well, almost only: they have a few other things up their sleeves to make cocktails, but if you want a glass of wine or a Cuba Libre then you’re out of luck. They have over 120 different gins and a vast range of Belgian beers. They do just one non-Belgian beer, Villages Whistlers Lager, which is ultra-local – it comes from the next-door arch.
It’s remarkable what they manage to offer with such a limited palette. We started off with a couple of cocktails made from beer. We know! Bananas! One was called the Stout and About, and contains a stout reduction, egg white, vermouth, walnuts bitters, ginger and honey. It’s meant to look like a pint of Guinness, with a creamy head and dark body – though the body wasn’t that dark, so it looked a bit more like Caffrey’s. It tasted superb, sweet, creamy and a little porty: just the thing for a cold November night.
Less seasonally appropriate was the refreshing Aperitivo Deptfordtivo, made from a homemade beer aperitif, prosecco (they do have one wine in the building) and tonic water. We then tried a few gins off the extensive list, including a Hibernation gin from Wales, made with crabapples and aged in an old white port cask; it’s very creamy and complex. Then a Ki No Tea from Japan, which is made with green tea and tastes earthy and distinctive, if not terribly ginny. Their house gin is the award-winning Tarquin’s from Cornwall.
Basically, it’s gin nerd heaven. The bar is the brainchild of husband and wife Steve and Gemma Wheeler, who somehow tired of their jobs as an accountant and funeral director respectively and decided to open a bar in South East London. They then took on local boy Sam Wheeler, ex-Marriott hotels and gin nut par excellence.
The interior is industrial and stark without being grungy. With its white tiles, it has the feel of a craft beer bar. If you’re looking for somewhere intimate and sexy, you’re in the wrong place – there are no dark corners for canoodling. With such minimalist décor and a highly limited menu, the place feels like a barman’s idea of a great bar: austere, rigorous, intellectual. It’s about appreciating expertly made drinks rather than escapism. Happily, for such good drinks, it’s really not expensive: cocktails were around £7.50 each, with gins from £6 for a 35ml measure.
We didn’t explore much on the beer list apart from a nice Belgian white beer. Suffice to say there’s some serious stuff, including La Chouffe Biere Blonde and the sour Rodenbach Grand Cru. It does seem a bit odd, though, to specialise in Belgian beer when you’re based in the epicentre of London’s brewing scene. We wonder whether with time they will loosen up a bit and offer a wider selection of drinks.
We finished with an Oude Negroni, made with Campari, Cocchi vermouth and an aged Dutch Geneve. It looked spectacular, with one huge perfectly clear ice cube sitting in the centre. It didn’t taste much like the hell broth (copyright Anthony Bourdain) of a classic Negroni. It’s closer to a boulevardier – like a Negroni but made with whisky instead of gin. Then we went out into the freezing night for an excellent supper at Marcella, sister restaurant of Artusi in Peckham. Walking home, the high street was eerily quiet for 9pm on a Saturday night. It felt very much like the old Deptford, rather than the new Peckham.
Gin & Beer, 2 Resolution Way, SE8 4NT